In 2017, U.S. drivers spent a collective $15.4 billion repairing rust during the previous five-year period. And while people might think that car rust is mostly cosmetic, rust can make a vehicle unsalvageable over time. 

If you’re reading this, you’re probably trying to decide if you should fix your rusty car or buy a new one. Maybe you’ve been driving a beater and you’d like to keep doing so — if you only knew how to stop rust from spreading on a car. Or maybe you’re planning to buy an old rusty car and you’re not sure if it’s a lemon or a bargain.

Should you be booking test drives at your nearest dealership? Is your car a wash and a paint job away from glory? Read on to find out. 

Understanding the Different Types of Rust

Many people don’t know this, but car rust can generally be broken down into three main categories:

  • Surface rust
  • Scale rust
  • Penetrating rust

We’ll go through each of these rust types in turn.

1. Surface Rust

This is the first part of the rusting process. 

For some, it begins with a piece of gravel chipping through your paint and exposing the metal. For others, the corrosion begins after a long winter spent commuting over salted highways.

Regardless, when your car is dealing with surface rust, that means that the oxidation process has begun. The good news is that on a scale of one to ten, surface rust is on the lower end of the totem pole. So it’s fairly easy to fix.

Because you don’t want to start off by painting a rusty car, you’ll want to start by sanding down the rust spot. Then, once that’s done, you’ll need to apply primer along with a coat of paint. If you catch this type of rust early, you can quickly stop it from spreading.

2. Scale Rust

When surface rust isn’t caught and treated on time, those little spots can eventually cause your paint to take on a blistered appearance. This is a sign of what’s known as scale rust. And, when left untended, it can cause real damage to your car. 

If your car has scale rust on it, you can still salvage it. But your rust treatment options may be more expensive and intensive.

3. Penetrative Rust

Let’s assume for a minute that you bought your car late in the rusting process. The surface rust is long gone and the rust has progressed beyond scale rust. Penetrating rust is what happens when rust is allowed to spread unchecked. 

It will eat your car’s body panels. It will result in holes and unsightly discolorations. And, if you’re really unlucky, the penetrative rust could cause your car to literally fall apart. 

Penetrative rust often requires extensive repairs if it happens.

What Can You Do With a Rusty Car?

Okay. So let’s assume that you’ve inspected your car and realized that you do, indeed, have a rust problem. What can you do next?

There are generally three approaches that drivers can take when it comes to their vehicles:

1. DIY Fixes

If you’ve got a few small rust spots, you may be able to tackle the rust repairs yourself with some sandpaper and paint. For car owners who really want to get things done quickly, there are affordable car rust removal products being sold online and in local department stores. This makes do-it-yourself solutions a budget-friendly rust repair option. 

2. Hire an Automotive Professional

Sometimes car rust can become so advanced that treatment options include doing jobs like:

  • Replacing body panels
  • Welding 

You’ll want a professional to diagnose and make these repairs. And if you’re determined to keep your car, the restoration process can be very expensive.

3. Sell to Junk Removal

There comes a point where rust repair costs become expensive enough to buy you a new car. Fortunately, companies like Delight Car Removal are able to quickly and easily help you unload your unwanted vehicle. 

Factors to Consider When Deciding on Car Rust Repair

At this point, you’ve aware of your options but you’re still not able to answer the million-dollar question:

Should you repair your old rusty car or not?

Here are three issues that you’ll want to think about:

1. The Value of Your Car

In May 2022, a 1955 Mercedes-Benz was auctioned off for $143 million. This eye-watering number didn’t just break records — it made this vehicle the most expensive car ever sold. 

If you own an antique or a collectible, you may want to spend a little more to fix it. But if you’re driving an old car that’s depreciating more by the day, there’s nothing wrong with throwing in the towel once the rust sets in.

2. The Cost of Making Repairs

There are the $10 rust removal fixes you can buy from any Home Depot. And then there are the expensive, full-body replacement and welding jobs that go into repairing penetrative rust.

As you go through your rust assessment process, you’ll want to think very seriously about how the repairs will affect your pocket.

3. Your Safety While Driving

With penetrative rust, there comes a point where your car is too structurally compromised to drive safely. If your vehicle has reached that point, it might not be possible to turn things around. At that point, you may be better off purchasing a new vehicle altogether.

Here’s What You Should Know About Dealing With a Rusty Car

Unlike a head-on collision or brakes that refuse to work, rust has a way of sneaking up on you. One day you’re dealing with a few rust spots. And the next thing you know, you’re officially driving a rusty car. 

For this reason, car experts will often say that proactiveness is one of the most important rust prevention tips out there. If you can stop rust from spreading on a car with rust-proofing treatments and rust removal repairs, you’ll be able to get a lot more mileage out of your vehicle.

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